broadway

8 Broadway Shows You Need To See in 2019

Whether you’re a tourist in town or a long-time resident of New York City, it’s always a great time to see a show on Broadway, Off Broadway, or even Off Off Broadway. The choices are vast, diverse, and there’s something for everyone:

Here are just some of the shows to see with friends and family!

Phantom of the Opera. A masterpiece from the French novel of the same name written by Gaston Leroux and published in 1910, the longest-running musical in history is a must-see, and a must-see it again! Every detail is sharp, specific, and a delight to observe while memorably scored with lyrical and rock opera songs. The Tony Award-winner for Best Musical in 1988 was written by Broadway legend Andrew Lloyd Webber (Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar) and if there’s one to see one when your family comes to town, this may be the one!

Chicago. The second longest running musical in the history of Broadway, this satire on the criminal justice led by two fierce women truly knows how to showcase its choreography. Another classic to discover or re-discover, each and every song will be stuck in your head after leaving the theatre, and dancing in Times Square won’t surprise anyone. The show was adapted into a film directed by Rob Marshall and won the Best Picture Oscar in 2003; the show itself won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical in 1997.

Frozen. Frozen is adapted from the 2013 smash hit Disney animated film, which itself was adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Snow Queen. Disney Theatrical Productions knows what to do to make audiences feel the magic of the story and sing along to its catchy numbers. Director Michael Grandage and choreographer Rob Ashford had already collaborated on Broadway for Evita, and were a perfect team to make alive this tale of sisterhood with superb technical effects, new songs, and the ones we already know so well.

Wicked. The untold story about the witches of Oz, this creative, witty sweet, and fun comedy is for the whole family. One of the most expensive shows to produce on Broadway due to its makeup and scenic effects, Wicked never gets old and puts some of the finest singers in musical theatre on center stage. Indeed, this show helped make household names out of its stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, who won the Tony Award for her role as Elphaba.

School of Rock. The 2003 film of the same name, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black, was a smash hit when it came out, so it was only a matter of time before producers brought its dynamic, rock ‘n’ roll vibes to Broadway. The show stars a strong cast of talented children headlined by a charismatic lead, and is passionate, touching, and just a whole lot of fun.

Jersey Boys. Inspired by the lives of the celebrated doo wop group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, this lively show mixes comedy and drama with classic golden oldies. First starting on Broadway before moving Off Broadway, Jersey Boys was adapted into a film by Clint Eastwood in 2014.

Kinky Boots. Adapted from a British movie from 2005, this fresh and energetic show is an LGBTQIA+ story with an uplifting story, vivid colors, and strong characters and includes songs from activist-singer Cyndi Lauper and lyrics by Harvey Fierstein (Hairspray, Mrs. Doubtfire). Kinky Boots is closing on April 7, so now may be your last chance to see it on Broadway for a long time!

Stomp. Stomp is a British creation from the city of Brighton founded in 1991 that toured the world and has been performed Off Broadway since 1994. With no dialogue, this percussion celebration is a journey through unique sounds: matchboxes, zippo lighters, push brooms, and garbage cans to name a few. Each number is precise, musically innovative, and a heck of a good time.

The Difference Between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway

Many consider New York City to be the Cultural Capital of the World — there are countless things to do for both tourists and native New Yorkers alike. But nearly everyone visiting the Big Apple makes sure they catch a show. While Broadway is obviously the flashiest of the options out there, there are also Off-Broadway and even Off-Off-Broadway productions. But what do these labels mean exactly?

The answer is surprisingly simple. What gives a show its designation as Broadway, Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway isn’t its production value or budget, or a measure of its success. It’s actually mostly related to a show’s seating capacity!

Broadway

Off-Off-Broadway

Off-Off-Broadway theatres have 99 seats or less, so are obviously smaller venues than their more well known cousins. There are around 120 Off-Off-Broadway theaters in New York City at any given time, with many located in the city’s more artistic neighborhoods, like the West Village.

Often these shows will have cheaper ticket prices, and closer access to the actors after a performance. Because it’s easier to take financial chances with smaller productions, Off-Off-Broadway shows are also more likely to be avant-garde or experimental than more mainstream venues. They can be more traditional plays and musicals however, and give theatre-goers a healthy amount of options throughout the year.

An example of an Off-Off-Broadway production is Benten Kozo, directed by Jim Simpson, an Obie award-winning production that ran for over six months.

Some Off-Off-Broadway theatres:
HERE Arts Center, The Kraine Theater, La MaMa E.T.C.


Off-Broadway

Off-Broadway theatres can be significantly larger than on Off-Off-Broadway, and can hold up to to 499 seats. With fantastic original stories, musical revivals, and even performance art shows, many shows that begin on Off-Broadway can jump to Broadway if successful enough and warrants larger audience capacity — a famous example being historical musical, Hamilton.

Well-known stage performers can also be prominent in the Off-Broadway scene, not just limiting themselves to larger Broadway shows. Many performers tend to go back to the intimacy of a smaller theatre where an audience can be engaged more intimately with a production and its cast. There are roughly 85 Off-Broadway theatres in Manhattan.

Stomp is an enormously popular production that began in the United Kingdom and has been running in the East Village’s Orpheum Theatre for years, and is a unique example of the varied types of shows you can catch on Off-Broadway.

Some Off-Broadway theatres:
Cherry Lane Theatre, SoHo Playhouse, Minetta Lane Theatre

Theatre Ballet
Broadway

Broadway shows have the strictest guidelines to earn their moniker. In addition to having 500 seats or greater, they must be located in the Theatre District (around Times Square in Midtown, Manhattan) as well as in venues certified by The Broadway League, the trade association for the Broadway industry.

Because of their prime locations, Broadway shows have a greater chance to attract tourists and other theatre-goers, and as such, have long since been known to have much larger budgets and production values than other musicals and stage shows in New York City. Similarly, they can also attract larger stars, as well as adaptations of famous films and other works whose rights may be expensive to procure.

Examples of famous Broadway shows are nearly countless, with The Phantom of the Opera being the longest running show on Broadway to date.

Some Broadway theatres:
Gershwin Theatre, Winter Garden Theatre, Ambassador Theatre

What Life as a Swing, Understudy, or Standby is Like

In theatre, we have what we call: a swing, an understudy and a standby. Three distinct, respected functions. There can a handful of these actors in the same shows for the lead roles, depending on the budget and the roles’ physical demand. Knowing that Broadway shows run eight times a week, it is very important that someone will be able to rock that stage no matter what.

In major Broadway productions, you can usually find performers hired to learn the track (the choreography and lines of a particular role) and ready to jump in at any point during the show if needed.

Backstage 2

A swing wears at least two hats. They can “swing” between two parts in the same show. Lots of ensemble members right now on Broadway are swings to one of the lead roles and perform an ensemble track on a regular basis. Some are ensemble members and can be noted as swing to one of the major lead parts.

An understudy learns the track for when the primary performer is absent. Usually, if the said name is famous, another big name can be called as an understudy for that specific replacement. They are then aware in advance when they will perform.

A standby, literally, is always ready to go on at any time. For example, in the first act, you may applaud one lead but applaud a different performer for the same role in the second act. If a standby isn’t there for such an occasion, the production can ask a swing. A standby has to be backstage at all time, warmed up, made up, and costume-ready so that the show can move on smoothly if the original actor cannot perform their role.

Backstage

It is important to know that after the previews, all shows are “frozen,” which means that the blocking and choreography are locked. Therefore, each performer who learn each track must be very thorough and respect the writer, director and creator’s visions, not deviating from what has been locked.

Each of these jobs are crucial to the theatre industry — just as crucial as the primary leads and no swing, understudy, or standby is less talented whatsoever. Many will go through months of long auditions and are cast on the same criteria as the leads.

The beauty of a company is that initially, everyone knows the track of one another. There are of course official swings, understudies, and standbys though. The quality on stage is delivered to its best no matter who performs.

Who Are We Rooting For at the 2017 Tony Ceremony?

The 2017 Tony Award Season is going to be a blast.

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While “A Doll’s House Part 2” imagines a sequel to the famous Ibsen play, “Groundhog Day,” based on a film of the same name, is a romantic comedy about a man stuck in a time loop. Meanwhile, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” a musical based on Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is leading the show with 12 nominations.

So who are your expected winners? Below are our predictions in the top categories for this year’s Tony Awards.

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1.  Best Play: Our guess is that it’s going to be “Sweat,” which is based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Lynn Nottage and takes a cold hard look at working-class America. However, “Oslo” may be a close contender for this award.

2. Best Musical: We’re torn between two choices — “Come From Away” and “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” but we’re willing to place a bet on the former.

3. Best Revival of a Play: Set in a gypsy-cab station, we think “Jitney” was one heck of an amazing ride and we’re hoping it will bag this year’s Tony.

4. Best Revival of a Musical: We think it’s going to be a close call between “Hello, Dolly!” and “Falsettos” but we’re slightly biased towards “Falsettos.” 

5. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: We think Kevin Kline did an amazing job as Garry Essendine in “Present Laughter.” 

6. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: As much as we love Cate Blanchett, we have a feeling it’s going to be Laurie Metcalf for her fantastic role in “A Doll’s House, Part 2” as Nora Helmer.

7. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical: For this, our heart simply goes out to Josh Groban from “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

8. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical: Both Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone stole our hearts with their mesmerizing performances in “War Paint,” so we’re hoping it might be a draw, though we suspect Bette Midler from “Hello, Dolly!” is going to be stiff competition.

9. Best Direction of a Play: We think it’s a tough choice between Sam Gold (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”)  and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Jitney”).

10. Best Direction of a Musical: We’re rooting for Christopher Ashley for all the little ways he made “Come from Away” such a captivating experience.

11. Best Book of a Musical: In our opinion, the award for the best librettist should go to Steven Levenson for “Dear Evan Hansen.” 

12. Best Original Score Written For Theatre: We really hope its Dave Malloy’s heart-wrenching score for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.” 

Do you agree or disagree with the above predictions?

In fact, we will be live-streaming during the Tony Awards ceremony, so follow us for live updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and see how many of our predictions came true!

The 4 Top Grossing & Longest Running Current Broadway Shows

No trip to New York is complete without seeing a Broadway show. The most famous theatre district in the world, Broadway is a 13 mile strip in Manhattan that is full of culture, lights, and theatre magic. The most popular shows on Broadway are the musicals, to the point that the very word “Broadway” has become synonymous with the American style of musicals made famous by the Great White Way. There’s no business like show business, but what many don’t realize is that show business can be big business.

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Here’s a list of the highest grossing, longest running, and most significant Broadway shows going on right now. We only included shows that are still going: unfortunately, “Mamma Mia” ended its first run in 2015, so it barely missed this list. However, it is the most popular “jukebox” musical of all time (a musical that uses popular music). If you want to see the longest-running Broadway shows to date, check out Playbill’s comprehensive list

Here are 4 current shows that embody the spirit of Broadway, and are also busting box office records:

Wicked

There haven’t been very many new Broadway shows that have crept their way onto the list of the longest running and highest grossing Broadway musicals. “Wicked” is not only an exception to this rule; it’s gross has been exceptional. Debuting in 2003, the story of the Wicked Witch of the West’s untold and ill-fated friendship with Glinda the Good Witch and how she came to become one of our culture’s most famous villains has made over a billion dollars. And as long as it’s run continues, it’ll soon unseat “Mamma Mia” to become the 8th longest running Broadway musical of all time. Currently, “Wicked” sits at 9th place for all time.

Chicago

The only show on this list to spawn a film adaptation that went on to win Academy Award for Best Picture, the revival of 1975’s “Chicago” has been running ever since it reopened in 1996. This makes it the second longest running Broadway musical of all time, and the longest running show to debut on Broadway. Like many Broadway musicals, it had its origins in a different medium: a non-musical play written by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about a pair of female murderers: the star Velma Kelly and her rival, the fame hungry Roxie Hart, as they try to make themselves famous while awaiting trial. The original show was choreographed and directed by the legendary Bob Fosse, who dramatized this busy portion of his life in the 1979 film “All That Jazz” (he was also directing a film based on the life of Lenny Bruce, entitled “Lenny”).

The Phantom of the Opera

The story of “The Phantom of the Opera” is an odd one. The Gaston Leroux novel had already been adapted twice into film with Lon Chaney and Claude Reins portraying the title role, respectively, when Andrew Lloyd Webber crafted the definitive stage version of this tale about a soprano’s obsession with a maimed and musically gifted recluse who lives under the Palais Garner. Now,  “Phantom” is synonymous with Broadway — and with good reason: it’s been running since 1988, which means it currently holds the title of the longest-running musical in the world. Not only that, but “Phantom” was also the most financially successful musical until it was surpassed in 2014 by…

The Lion King

“The Lion King” is truly a dynamo in the world of Broadway. It launched the career of Julie Taymor, who went on to become the first woman to win a Tony for directing for her work on the show. She also won a Tony for the costume designs and even helped with the script. “The Lion King” is based on the Disney blockbuster, which follows the coming of age, framing of, and triumphant return of the rightful king of the Pride Lands, Simba. “The Lion King” may only be the third longest running Broadway show, but it’s the highest grossing, which is incredibly impressive when you consider it started its run nine years after “The Phantom of the Opera.” Boasting innovative puppet work and the music of Elton John, “The Lion King” on stage stands alongside the film as an inspiring example of what each respective medium can do.

Have a great experience with one of these shows or want to talk about your favorite show? Sound off in the comments! And learn more about musical theatre at NYFA!

LET IT GO: Who will play Elsa on Broadway?

Disney has announced that Frozen will be coming to Broadway sometime in the near future, creating quite a buzz. While Idina Menzel can obviously command a stage, she may be too old to pull off Elsa live, which leaves one big question: Who will play Elsa? Here are a few suggestions of actresses that would be capable of pulling off the iconic role.

LEIGH ANN LARKIN

Leigh Ann hasn’t been seen on Broadway since 2011, and it’s time to get her back. Best known for her portrayal of June in Gypsy with Patti LuPone, she is a tiny girl with a huge voice. She’s more than capable of pulling off difficult music, and handled “The Miller’s Son” in A Little Night Music perfectly. She still looks young enough to play the princess, and even has Elsa’s blonde hair.

MACKENZIE MAUZY

MacKenzie may not be well known yet, but she will be blowing up after her time as Rapunzel in the Into the Woods movie. She has only technically been on Broadway in the cast of A Tale of Two Cities and in a brief time as standby for the role of Natalie in Next to Normal. Regardless of her lack of Broadway credits, Mauzy has a huge voice with an incredible range. She has spent most of her time on television, but may have the perfect look for Elsa with the added bonus of being a Disney name after the release of Into the Woods.

LAURA BELL BUNDY

Laura has been in many of the biggest Broadway musicals, most notably starring as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Bell Bundy also spent some time in Wicked as standby for both Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Laura Thompson in the role of Glinda. While she has taken a break from Broadway for more roles in television and a career in country music, her talent would be welcomed back with open arms. Elle Woods gave her material of similar difficulty, and she was able to handle carrying the show on her shoulders.

ANNELIESE VAN DER POL

Anneliese may not be a familiar name, but most of the millennial generation would know her better as Chelsea Daniels in Disney’s That’s So Raven. She is no stranger to Disney musicals, and took on the role of Belle in the closing cast of Beauty and the Beast. Her connection to Disney is almost as strong as her incredible voice, more than capable of handling the music in Frozen with ease. She has taken her time away from Broadway doing projects she is passionate about, but her talent deserves to be seen again by a larger audience. She has just the right amount of attitude to pull off the icy queen.

PHILLIPA SOO

Arguably the most unknown actress on this list, Phillipa is a newcomer to the New York theatre scene. She is most well known for her role as Natasha in the hit off-Broadway show Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. The actress was a hit with all of the major New York critics, and praised for her ability to give such a raw and emotional performance in the small venue created for the show. She is a graduate of Julliard’s school of Drama. At only 23 years old, Soo’s career is ready to take off, and Elsa may be the perfect role to bring her to a Broadway stage.

LEA MICHELE

The obvious choice in looks and talent to follow Idina Menzel, Lea Michele will be singing Let It Go in the opening episode of the next season of Glee. Idina even plays Lea’s mother on the show, and the two actresses have been compared countless times. Lea has been on Broadway here entire life, and has shown her talent in many successful shows. She has a name that is known by almost everyone in the younger generations, and would create even more of a draw to a show that can easily stand on name alone. If Lea is cast in the role, the real question is who could possibly stand up to her as Anna?

These six actresses are just a few of the possible options for the role. Who do you think would be best suited to carry the next Disney hit musical on their shoulders?

Pop Star Musicals: Who Should & Shouldn’t Be Writing A Show?

With “Kinky Boots” taking the Tony Award for Best Score over “Matilda”, and Sting’s new “The Last Ship” heading to Broadway this season, more pop music stars seem to be trying their luck on Broadway. Elton John has comfortably written for musical theatre, while the Tupac inspired “Holler If Ya Hear Me” didn’t seem to work as well with the typical theater-going audience. Who do you think should be showing their musical theatre writing skills, and which pop stars should stay away? Here are a few possibilities:

Taylor Swift

It’s easy to imagine exactly what a Taylor Swift musical would sound like, and her music tends to have quite a bit of storytelling in it. She would definitely have a hit with the teen fans between her writing skills and her chart-topping hits.

Sara Bareilles

This is already rumored to be happening, and there couldn’t be a better fit! Sara’s music is extremely theatrical (tip for anyone looking for pop songs to add to their book). She’s writing the score for a musical adaptation of the movie “Waitress.” With the right show and role, Sara is one pop star that can carry a show — and we can’t wait to see her acting abilities.

Ed Sheeran

Ed writes a lot of his own music, and would have a totally different sound than most of the other musical theatre we would expect to hear out of a pop star, and the result could be really interesting.

Eminem

Could a rap musical work? Eminem is one rapper whose musical would definitely create a lot of buzz. An urban musical would give the opportunity for different artists to show off their special skills they bring to the table.

Katy Perry

Everything about Katy is theatrical, and spectacle is a huge part of her performance aesthetic.

With the right funding and production team signing onto a show, you never know who might end up popping up on the next Broadway marquee. Some of these pop musicals come and go quickly, like Jimmy Buffett’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival”, while “Kinky Boots” may end up being a musical that people are studying for years to come.

Broadway On The Small Screen: 4 Musicals That Need TV Revivals

After last year’s hit, NBC’s The Sound of Music Live, NBC and FOX are bringing us two more live musicals with Peter Pan Live and Grease Live, respectively. NBC has also acquired the rights to bring their own version of The Music Man to television sometime in the near future. With TV musicals becoming a viable option for musicals that may not be commercial enough for a full-scale Broadway revival, here are some other shows that may be due for their own one-night remount, and some stars that might (capable of acting, or not) lead them.

4. Little Shop of Horrors

The two lead roles in this musical make the stunt casting options pretty endless. If they cast a solid pop star to play Audrey and a celebrity to voice the evil flytrap-like plant Audrey II, viewers would be sure to tune in. There is a pretty solid movie version in existence, but it’s arguable that all of the shows being chosen have iconic films associated with them. The music is catchy, and the show is a fun cult favorite.

Possible casting: Lady Gaga as Audrey

She went to NYU, and her life is basically performance art, so this role shouldn’t be too difficult for her to act. With a voice that has shown wide versatility, and the ability to give a solid live performance, Gaga is an obvious choice for the role.

3. Bye Bye Birdie

Nearly every community theatre has done this show, and it’s easy to see why. Americans have a soft spot for the 1950s, and it doesn’t get much more stereotypical than Bye Bye Birdie. The content is clean enough for the whole family to enjoy, and a show about a celebrity singer makes things easy for casting. There are a large number of roles in the show, allowing for well-known actors of different age groups to show their stuff. Get the right guy to play Conrad, and every tween in America will be tuning in.

Possible casting: Any member of One Direction as Conrad Birdie

While it’s unclear which member of the boy band would be able to pull off the role best vocally, casting any one of them would bring a ridiculously large fan base to the show. They would be playing a pop/rock star that makes girls cry and faint, which wouldn’t be a far stretch from their day-to-day lives.

2. Hello, Dolly

Barbra Streisand did it, and most musical fans know the interpretations done by her and Carol Channing in the role of Dolly Levi. This show is a star vehicle, and you need someone who is up to the challenge. A throwback like The Music Man to a simpler time and place, Jerry Herman’s score is one that deserves to be heard again. It may not be a musical to keep kids entertained, but the nostalgia felt in seeing this musical again is sure to please the older generations.

Possible casting: Bette Midler as Dolly Levi

She is a great actress, and more than capable of pulling off this role. While Midler has said she wouldn’t like to do a full 8-show Broadway run at this point, this would be a perfect showcase for her talents.

1. Beauty and the Beast

In order to get this one to happen, ABC really needs to join the TV-musical party, but who doesn’t want a live version of Beauty and the Beast? The Disney musical catalog gives ABC the ability to grab the family market in a way that no other company could. It wouldn’t be the first time ABC developed their own version of musicals, as they did shows like Annie with Audra McDonald and The Music Man with Kristin Chenoweth in the late 90s and early 00s. Casting options would be endless, and the ability to cast a celebrity in an acting-heavy role of the beast might allow them to get someone for Belle who could really do the vocals justice.

Possible casting: Ariana Grande as Belle

Ariana is one of the top up-and-coming pop stars right now, and is very familiar with the world of musical theatre. After performing in the Broadway ensemble of the musical 13, she made her transition to TV and music. She has stated many times in interviews that she loves musical theatre and would like to return to it, and what better way than a TV performance for a busy star on the rise?